Ditch the bulk: Hydes smaller, more compact lifevests might just be the future of water safety. ALIVE called on co-founder Pat Hughes to find out more.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START HYDE? I competed in my first triathlon in college, and during the event, a participant drowned. I was really saddened by how avoidable this tragedy seemed and came to learn that swim deaths are a huge issue that leaders are trying to solve in the sport. I thought the most direct solution to prevent drowning would be a device that wouldn’t inhibit you in any way while swimming but would allow you to rescue yourself in an emergency.
HOW DID YOU GET FROM IDEA TO STARTUP? I bought a sewing machine and taught myself to sew our first prototypes. I created the first 10, and once they started to look like a marketable product, we found a manufacturing facility in the US that could make them for us professionally. We really started to feel like a startup when we debuted the product at our first trade show and got a great response. It validated the idea for us, and then we realized it was time to make the idea a functioning business.
HOW DID YOU FUND HYDE? HOW HAS ITS GROWTH BEEN? So far, the company has been funded through our own bootstrapping and the Arch Grant we received. It’s challenging because manufacturing in a very regulated product category is very capital intensive, but we are proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. The Wingman was recently named the best Action Sports Safety Product at the ISPO trade show in Munich, and we intend to have the product publicly available this spring/ summer.
WHAT’S YOUR TYPICAL DAY LIKE? There haven’t been many typical days at Hyde yet, but I’ve been spending a lot of my time lately working on our supply chain and manufacturing to be sure it’s ready for the product launch. However, every day begins with a cup of strong coffee brewed by Mike, our break-room aficionado, and ends with a game of pingpong.
TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR SUCCESS? I attribute our success so far to our dedication to creating the best product possible and our unwillingness to compromise on the product design. There are a lot of opportunities to cut corners or cut costs when you’re designing a product. They are usually very tempting, but we refuse to sacrifice quality.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU’D HAVE KNOWN BEFORE STARTING OUT? I wish I’d have known how long it would take to get the product to market: It’s true that things always seem to take twice as long as you expect.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE COMPANY? We are finishing up our US Coast Guard approval process this spring and plan on delivering our first product this summer. We will begin taking preorders through our website soon.
Photo credit: Attilio DAgostino